webOnline marketing enables businesses to open their virtual shop doors to the world. Our advice to business owners that can feasibly attract international clientele is: don’t forget to include hreflang tags.

If you need to brush up on why hreflang tags are important, you can do that right here, right now.

The hreflang tag has a direct correlation to websites that publish content in various different languages. It is also used as a ranking metric when faced with multiple URLs which are the same content by search engines which we will come on to later.

First we’re going to tackle why you need hreflang tags.

Why are hreflang tags required?

hreflang tags are the solution to potential technical SEO problems for online businesses that publish content in different languages.

The first problem the tag solves is ranking pages in relevant search engines. For example, let’s say you publish two similar pieces of content on your website, one in English and the other in Spanish.

If the search query of an end-user in Spain matches your content, the webpage that contains the Spanish version will show up in their search results rather than the English version. But only if you use hreflang tags to inform search engines there is a duplicate page in another language.

It should be noted as this point that the hreflang tag only flags up languages, not countries. Therefore, a hreflang tag on a page containing Spanish content will show up in search engines on all Spanish speaking countries.

How does hrelang benefit SEO?

The hreflang tag benefits SEO in two ways: the first one demonstrated above improves the user-experience of foreign nationals. Even people that have a reasonable command of English would rather read content in their own language.

Furthermore, when end-users find webpages in their mother tongue, they are more likely to click-through and stay on the page. If you only have an English version of the content, end-users may not hang around for long even if they do click-through. This gives you a negative bounce rate.

The second reason for including hreflang tags is to prevent Google from filtering your website URLs because  of duplicate content or returning the wrong results (because Google may often choose only one URL to return).  In general terms, the duplicate claim dilemma may not by an issue if you are publishing content in foreign languages that vary drastically.  Hreflang passes a strong canonicalization signal to Googlebot about which page to rank in which language.  Canonicalization means that you are telling Googlebot that essentially these pages are the same and this is the one that we want to rank.

However, companies that are targeting English speaking markets could fall foul of Google’s duplicate content restrictions. Spanish companies have the same dilemma.

For example, let’s say you published the same piece of content for audiences in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. To keep the content local, you can make changes to accommodate the difference in currency, words and expressions in language to save confusion. Case in point: a thong in Australia is a flip-flop.

Adding the hreflang tags is a small job that will save you from encountering big problems. And you should find your SEO web ranking and user-experience metrics will benefit.